Volunteers’ Week 2022: what befriending means to me

As part of our celebrations for Volunteers’ Week this year, we’re shining a spotlight on Cathy, one of our incredible befriending volunteers who has supported Dot after her lung cancer diagnosis.

Cathy, a Sue Ryder volunteer and befriender, standing next to Dot, a Sue Ryder patient, in the sunshine

When Dot’s lung cancer symptoms started to get worse, her GP referred her to Sue Ryder Palliative Care Hub South Oxfordshire for specialist care at home. Her nurse soon began to notice how isolated Dot was, and she ended up referring her to the hub’s befriending service for some extra support. 

Dot was matched with trained volunteer befriender Cathy, and this is the story of their relationship and what the service means to them.

Needing support

“I lost both my son and my brother within a short space of time about five years ago, which was a really difficult time in my life,” shares Dot. “It led to me drinking a lot over the following months and at one stage I had to be admitted to hospital for over a month, which is when they discovered I had lung cancer.

“I started receiving care from Sue Ryder and my nurse suggested that I might benefit from their befriending service. I remember the Befriending Coordinator, Alison, coming round and spending time talking with me. She said ‘I have just the right person for you’ and she was right. Cathy and I just gelled right from the start."

Providing support

Cathy has been a befriender for over five years. In her role, she supports patients by providing companionship, helping them to shop or visit favourite places, assisting with small practical tasks or offering respite for their family. 

“I just love befriending. I get such a lot out of it including a real sense of satisfaction that I am helping people at the end of their lives, whether that’s by supporting the carer or the patient. It can be very isolating for those looking after a relative who is so ill and it means a lot to them to be able to get out and about.”

“Many people without a befriender will spend a lot of time alone at home. That’s why I find befriending so rewarding, because the need for this kind of support is so great.”

Talking about the time she has spent with Dot over the past 18 months, she says “during the Coronavirus lockdowns, we weren’t able to meet in person, but would talk regularly on the phone to stay in touch. When restrictions allowed, we went for tea and cake at local coffee shops, visits to garden centres and for a day of retail therapy in the local town. We even paid a visit to the local donkey sanctuary!”

What befriending means to me

“Befriending has made every difference in the world to me,” says Dot. “The people I have met from Sue Ryder are all guardian angels and I can’t thank them enough. I don’t think I could have got the same level of support and care any other way. I trust them completely.”

“What I have learned from Cathy is just how kind people are. I have lost so many people in my life and now I feel like I have a whole new set of friends and a support system.”

Cathy adds, “I really enjoy coming to see Dot, and our relationship has developed to a lovely place where we know each other very well now.

“She has been through a lot of trauma in her life and sometimes she’ll just ring me for a chat or to ask me a question. The time that you can give to someone when they need it is so valuable. Unlike when I was a nurse, we don’t need to talk about medicine or anything clinical - we can talk about the weather or going to the donkey sanctuary!”

A befriender volunteer having coffee with a companion

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